Tag Archives: productivity

Quiz: Do You Feel Empowered at Work?

081017_QuizDo you operate from a mindset of empowerment or disempowerment? Take your work pulse with these seven true or false questions. 

By Jae Ellard, Founder, Simple Intentions  

1) True or False: “I have a feeling of clear direction and connectedness to the goings-on around me and understand how my work connects to the mission/purpose of my organization.” 

If you answered True: You are likely on the path to feeling a sense of overall empowerment. 

If you answered False: It might be time to reexamine the mission/purpose of your organization and explore more deeply where you feel connected or disconnected and begin to seek where there are paths for alignment. If you answered False, it doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, rather, pause and be willing to see it with new eyes. 

2) True or False: “I tend to feel as if time, resources, and support are scarce to do what I’m asked to do.” 

If you answered False: You likely feel that you have what you need to reach your desired outcomes. 

If you answered True: See it as an opportunity to be creative and explore out-of-the-box ideas to complete your goals, play with what if scenarios, brainstorm, even daydream—sometimes a small shift in thinking can create a new resource or avenue of support not previously considered. 

3) True or False: “I feel as if I have more to gain professionally through my work than I feel at risk of losing something.” 

If you answered True: You likely understand that taking risks is part of being a professional and have developed the confidence to know that a single meeting or project does not define your career. 

If you answered False: See it as an opportunity to explore what’s working, what’s going well, and what you’ve achieved, so when you do face risk, you are clear of all the past gains as well future ones to come. 

4) True or False: “The people I work with are open and collaborative—they want to share ideas and receive feedback.” 

If you answered True: You’re likely on a team where others feel empowered and where there is an elevated level of psychological safety, a cornerstone of a high functioning team, according to a study conducted at Google. 

If you answered False: See it as an opportunity to explore what your teammates are really thinking and feeling, ask questions, and be curious: conversation is the gateway to building an empowered team. 

5) True or False: “I feel energized and absorbed in what I’m doing and feel the value of achieving what I’m committed to more often than not.”  

If you answered True: You’re likely clear on your purpose and your actions are in solid alignment, and you might also be working for a leader/manager who recognizes your contributions. 

If you answered False: Begin to create awareness around what gives you energy and where you feel your contributions are valued. From there, see where this work is in or out of alignment with your values and goals and with that data, small shifts in behavior may naturally occur. 

6) True or False: “My work life feels like a house of cards—if one card falls, the house will crumble.” 

If you answered True: You likely experiencing a time of disempowerment, it might be time to create awareness around which card is most vulnerable and begin exploring options for support there. 

If you answered False: You’re likely in a time of empowerment. 

7) True or False: “I feel like my team has open, authentic conversations as needed about projects and the goings on of our work culture.” 

If you answered True: You’re likely steeped in a work culture where empowerment is a shared value. 

If you answered False: Perhaps your team is facing change, uncertainly, or the goals are not clear. Despite the turmoil, this period can also present opportunities to discuss what’s working and what’s not, allowing a chance for the team connect to some empowered moments, actions, and projects. 

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Magazine] 

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Choosing Equanimity

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

121516_equanimity

I’m not normally an angry person. Really.

But I’m also no stranger to the emotion. In a world rife with inequity, bias, and realities that can make the most patient of us want to scream, anger is not uncommon. When I’m in the throes of it, I can focus on nothing else (including effective solutions to the issue) and find that my productivity and longevity suffer.

I’ve been pondering the benefits of anger lately. How it can be a wakeup call. How it can create needed boundaries. Anger can be the spark – to start a revolution, to fight injustice, to say “enough”. But it cannot be the whole flame or we will burn out. While anger can trigger productivity, anger itself is inherently not a productive emotion. And for sustainable change to occur, I’d argue that anger must evolve – into whatever is needed: passionate organizing, relentless activism, a resolute boundary – because anger alone is not enough.

So how then do we turn our anger into something useful? I believe the answer is equanimity.

I recently spent a precious Saturday attending a dharma talk titled “Fierce Equanimity” through The Lotus Institute with Dr. Larry Ward and Dr. Peggy Rowe. The talk discussed how to relentlessly, fiercely display equanimity (or a calmness and evenness of mind and emotion) regardless of life’s circumstances.

This concept states that one can address and overcome challenge and injustice with equanimity in lieu of anger. Instead of rage, determination and perseverance may better serve us. Rather than shouting, a calm but resounding “no” can be just as effective. In exchange for riots, nonviolent protests can mobilize a community. Our middle fingers can be playful instead of aggressive (kidding). This way of being suggests we can combat hate with a fierce and stubborn gratitude.

Still with me?

I heard a powerful idea at The Lotus Institute regarding the non-personalization of experience. In other words, anger is not ours to possess. It’s not a toy, cell phone, or piece of clothing that we can claim as belonging to us. It is an unfettered, volatile (and hopefully transient) response that everyone from all walks of life has experienced. This means that since we can’t actually own anger, it doesn’t own us either.

One of the many benefits of equanimity is that it encompasses inclusivity. It transcends “otherness”. It’s an encouragement to try to understand the “humanness” that is always present behind an act of hateful rhetoric. Inclusivity is one of the most effective ways to deflate an anger bubble – because it does away with the us vs. them notion. Equanimity means objectively asking yourself, “What in my life needs to be nourished? And what needs to be de-nourished?” It’s critically looking at societal systems and asking “What here needs to be legitimized? What needs to be de-legitimized?” And based on your answers, acting accordingly.

I want to go on the record and say that letting go of anger and embracing equanimity does not mean succumbing to passivity. Quite the opposite – equanimity often means being part of a slow-moving force, but one that is startling in its power and lasting in its effect. In Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says, “I can’t turn back. I have reached the point of no return.” Dr. King is in my mind a model for equanimity. Though he had a lifelong dedication to nonviolence (an important component of equanimity), not one could call him a passive force. Rather, he heeded the call to remain collected and compassionate in the long fight for social change – to powerful results. If anger is the blinding flare, then equanimity is the slow burn that drives us day in and day out.

Passivity in the face of injustice is the opposite end of the spectrum. It is often the companion to apathy and ignorance, and enables the normalization of inequity. Passivity often stems from exclusivity, us vs. them. The funny thing is exclusivity (and therefore passivity) is illogical when accompanied with the awareness that most people desire the same things. We are all on a quest to find happiness, to find fulfillment, to find peace. But, as Dr. Ward asked that Saturday, find peace to do what? Find happiness to do what in the world?

I believe deep down we all know the answers (which are different for each of us). With equanimity, perhaps we can start to ask the right questions.

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Spend Time to Boost Energy and Gain Productivity

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

bigrocks2Time – how to maximize and better manage it – is a popular discussion in our workshops, no matter if we’re talking about awareness in Stop & Think or stress in Success With Stress. We all yearn, if not for more time, then more productive time. In a previous post, we discussed time and balance, and how raising our awareness of why we do what we do when we do it can boost the quality of how we spend our time.

But let’s take the discussion further with an additional perspective on time. For me, asking why I do the things I do when I do them revealed new opportunities to insert activities I value into ordinary tasks. Now, for example, I listen to podcasts while getting myself ready each morning. I love this opportunity to learn something new while completing a mundane task. (Right now, I’m absorbed in Seth Godin’s Startup School.)

This simple insertion somehow boosts my energy and contributes to my overall sense of productivity. In fact, in the book, The Happiness Track, author Emma Seppälä argues the real commodity of productivity – not to mention happiness – isn’t time, but rather energy. It’s the simple – but not always easy – practice of ensuring our to-do lists include activities that recharge our energy. Typically, these are the “important” things we too often push aside: undistracted thinking time, exercise, building relationships, self-reflection. Instead, we spend a lot of time addressing “urgent” items that ultimately drain our energy and sap our productivity.

Start your day with a vigorous workout or centering meditation, and the connection between energy and productivity is easy to appreciate. But when managing energy is too abstract a route to greater productivity, a good time management tool can provide something more quantifiable.

I recently learned an old, but still relevant productivity tool, Stephen Covey’s “Big Rock” theory, which essentially says: Put first things first. Schedule first your highest priorities, the important things that make the biggest difference to your success, however you define it. These are your big rocks. In so doing, you’ll have time for the urgent things – the gravel, sand and water that fill in the spaces around the big rocks. See a demo of how this works here.

Looking closely, the two ideas build on each other. Prioritizing our big rocks ensures we accomplish what’s most important, in turn boosting our energy for even greater productivity.

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Urgent Overload! (Is it Really Urgent?)

By Jae Ellard Simple Intentions Founder, and Kim Lowe Simple Intentions Managing Editor

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

Just like the word “busyurgent,” the word “urgent” is being abused, misused and overused in the corporate world. The relentless drive and determination to be first to market and best in class are fierce and relentless. Add the element of social media – where customers can instantly broadcast even the slightest delay or misstep – and it becomes understandable the circumstances that have spawned a perpetual culture of urgency inside many office environments.

The question to ask ourselves is: Is this culture of urgent sustainable? Intuitively, we know it’s not. Stress, burnout, disengagement, and low quality of work are major consequences of urgent overload. It creates a team environment in which people are only reacting to what’s urgent, and rarely – if ever – responding to what’s important.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “What is urgent is seldom important, and what is important is seldom urgent.” This thinking spawned The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which productivity pioneer Steven Covey popularized in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s become a common and useful productivity tool to help define and differentiate urgent versus important.

Indeed, the matrix is a strong foundation to help us intellectualize the concept of urgent. But how do we make it real and actionable in our day-to-day corporate lives? How do we actually manage the volume of “urgent” requests most of us face at work?

First, let’s stop abusing the word urgent. Truly, it’s not urgent unless it involves birth, bleeding or obstruction of breath. (Unless you work in health care, it’s rare that something is truly urgent at work.) Rather, the real conversation is about priorities: getting clear on and responding to what’s highest-priority for our roles and businesses. This is where people struggle, because “urgent” often comes with layers of non-verbals that can confuse its rank against other priorities.

To help decode what is really urgent or highest-priority, consider what’s driving the urgency: Is it the person making the request? A deadline? Is it you, the person doing the task or service? Or is a particular energy or emotion driving the urgency?

When we think about urgent as highest-priority it becomes easier to decode. Is something “high-priority” simply because it’s coming from your manager or an executive? Is a date attached that may or may not be a real deadline? Are YOU making it urgent because you don’t have enough information to know whether it’s highest-priority for your team or the business?

Or does the request come across as urgent because of the energy of the person requesting? Does their excitement make it feel like it needs immediate attention, whether it does or not? Is the person angry or upset, and you want to please them? Are they stressed out, and you’re feeling their stress? Are YOU excited because the request maps to your values so you want all of your attention on it now?

As important to consider is: When does urgent end? When is something no longer highest-priority? The answer depends on the driver, but it’s important to acknowledge when a cycle of urgent concludes, to prevent lingering confusion over conflicting priorities that may cause unnecessary stress.

Let’s save “urgent” for what is truly life-affecting, and shift the conversation to what it’s really about: competing priorities. Let’s allow space for decoding high-priority tasks and requests, and support an environment of more responding, less reacting.

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